On stage like Apple's Steve Jobs: 3 Mistakes to avoid when presenting

Today we're all enjoying Apple's Keynote presentation where Steve Jobs is showing off their new gadget called iPad (let's hope this thing ships today, 'cos I already want to buy it). Watching Steve deliver his presentation reminded me of three fundamental mistakes people make when delivering a keynote presentation....

Photo courtesy of gdgt

Delivering a good and solid presentation is not a rocket science, just avoid these three mistakes and you'll be closer to Steve's perfection than you think:

1. Don't start with an apology - it's not funny

I've noticed many people start presentations saying:
- "I'm sorry I'm not really prepared"
- "This presentation is crap, I've just finished doing it"
- "I did this presentation 5 minutes ago when on the plane/train"
- "This presentation will be boring to you"
- "Sorry for this/that, I didn't have the time to..."

What you're doing is actually saying: "I can't understand why you came to this event/conference and paid for it (with money, time, travel) to listen to me, as I obviously don't care about you at all to bother preparing myself for this speech."

Is it really the message you're trying to convey? Do you really think it's funny? No it isn't. Don't say anything like this even if you're really unprepared. Don't say upfront you'll be wasting people's time. Just don't.

2. Use dark background color and BIG white letters, 30 pixels minimum. Don't paste entire paragraphs.

Guy Kawasaki has this 10/20/30 rule when pitching Venture Capital firms saying - your presentation should have max 10 slides, last max 20 minutes and the smallest font size you're allowed to use is 30.

Many people use white background (Microsoft Powerpoint default) which is really not that elegant. Plus if the projector/beamer is crappy, the presentation looks crappy too. However this is nothing compared to the fact that lots of folks simply paste entire paragraphs to a presentation! I mean, come on, you're there presenting and you want me to read your presentation from the end of the hall when it's all written with the font size 8?

Unfortunately MS Powerpoint's presentation defaults encourage this mistake so remember this - change background to dark and don't use smaller fonts than 30. Ever. Don't make people read your presentation and distract them from your keynote speech.

3. Look at the public, don't read slides

OK, this is a fundamental mistake yet so many people do it! Both Powerpoint and Keynote (my tool of choice) have "presentation mode" where you can see the slide in front of you on your computer and you don't have to watch the slides behind you.

It's the people you should be talking to, not the slides. If you've applied the trick you've learned in #2 (using min 30 pixel font size) you won't be encouraged to read your slides anyway.

This is the worst thing that can happen - a guy delivering a presentation by standing back to the public reading his own slides. Can you offend the audience more than that?

That's it, just don't do these 3 mistakes and you'll be delivering keynotes like Apple's own Steve Jobs. It's that easy. You don't have to be charismatic to do that.

What are your tricks to deliver great presentations? Tools? Ideas? Experiences?

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 (apple,keynote,presentation)

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Tomasz Mioduszewski
Jan 28, 2010 10:15
All above - very important and a 100% true!
I would add one more: don't add this animation-effect to every single element of your presentation. Ok, slide transition may be nice, but not when the slide is flying/rotating for several seconds. And other elements (like headers, images, graphs etc) - let them show, but not make a firework of them.
p.s. Yeah, I wanted to ask you if you already bought the new gadget... but you've already answered that question ;-)
Michael Sliwinski
Jan 28, 2010 11:13
Yes, too much animations and effects can spoil the presentation. About the apple iPad... it's sad I can't buy it now, I would.